Ask any small business owner and they’ll no doubt tell you that setting up on your own brings pressure like no other. In short, you’re suddenly responsible for your own livelihood and all decisions rest on your shoulders. This pressure is unrelenting too, and as your business grows so do the risks – be it financing bigger premises or hiring more employees (who, in turn, rely on you for their job security) to meet demand.
Pressure can, of course, drive you to thrive and we know from our own research that small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners are flourishing as the greater responsibility and freedom they are afforded spurs productivity and bolsters their overall wellbeing. However, there is a balance that should be recognised between taking the lead and managing the pressure and associated stress by spreading yourself too thinly, which can be inherent to running your own business. AXA PPP healthcare’s research also revealed that a third of SME owners felt they could delegate more, and nearly half believed that their work spilled over into their home life.
Perhaps, therefore, it’s time we looked at harnessing the benefits of delegation. SME owners should consider the roles and responsibilities they shoulder and whether they could benefit from the support that comes from creating a trusted team around them when it comes to decision making and defining ownership of actions. This would go some way to ensuring that they have the thinking space for strategy, instead of becoming enmeshed in day-to-day operations. We can all benefit greatly from other people’s experience and professional perspective. This could help be the answer to the counterproductive pitfalls of taking on too much which can, if unchecked, lead to lower productivity and an increased risk of feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious.
Prioritising who is responsible for specific job functions can help in fostering workplace wellbeing. It gives autonomy to others and leaves you with more time to concentrate on where you can add value. Day-to-day tasks and client calls, for example, can be delegated to give you time to devote to business strategy – for better results in the long term.
We can all appreciate that delegating can be a challenge at first, as we all like to feel in control and we can worry about the quality of a job when we’re not doing it ourselves. Additionally we can feel awkward delegating monotonous tasks. However it is helpful to be mindful that delegation can engender mutual trust and respect, increasing an individual’s engagement through the positive experience of having personal control over their workload.
Therefore, SME owners have an opportunity not only to increase their own wellbeing and productivity but also that of their team and, in doing so, the overall health and prosperity of their business.
By Dr Joanna Livingstone, Lead Psychologist at AXA PPP healthcare